Booming Chinese drug market inspires major R&D effort

Drug discovery and research activities have traditionally focused on diseases common in the U.S. and Europe. That is, after all, where the money is. But as Reuters expounds on in an analysis out today, China is grabbing an increasing share of the global R&D budget, with investigators launching a slew of new studies to help understand how to treat the country's huge population and tap into one of the fastest growing pharma markets on the planet.

Pfizer has undertaken new work on Alzheimer's in China while Novartis is concentrating on a variety of cancers with plans to launch its first personalized therapy in 2013. Analysts add that diseases like hepatitis B and respiratory ailments offer huge new markets to companies that can afford to mount ambitious research efforts in China.

"Those niche markets are big, with very large populations maybe close to 200 to 300 million, which is almost the size of the U.S.," Citigroup's Richard Yeh tells the news wire. "Then you have the rest of the country. They want low cost products at the beginning, but after a few years, they will demand better quality drugs,"

It won't be easy. Chris Lu, who heads up drug discovery biology and technologies for the China Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, says they'll be expected to mount "first-in-man" trials with novel compounds.

- here's the article from Reuters